What it Means to Be a Woman: or "The Sweet Far Thing": a Review

When I finished reading the Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray this afternoon I was left with some unexpected feelings – no doubt due in part to the completely unexpected ending which I am still coming to terms with. The biggest surprise that should have been obvious was how big the theme of women’s equality would grow within the trilogy. Miss Doyle’s decisions and final realizations of what it is she wanted moved me and I thought of how far the suffrage has brought us since the dawn of the 20th century.

I often wonder if the early suffragetes would be proud of what we’ve done with their lives works. Somehow I don’t think so. It seems that no matter how hard we struggle to be freed of our cages we always manage to lock ourselves inside another. All we ask for is choice but sometimes we seem to take our choices away, perhaps afraid of what lies outside the safe confines of our souls. What do we want? Maybe we, too, can’t quite answer this question and so we seek out others to tell us what we might have.

As a mother the one thing I know I want is time to raise my children and be near them – I want for them chances I never had and I want for myself chances, too – to be silly  and play games, to nurture and watch over. I want the childhood I never quite grasped and to ensure that my own childen can grasp it with all their might. I think all mothers must want this, even the ones who do want to work rather than stay home with their children. What really saddens me is that regardless of whether or not our social status and family income can allow us to stay home, we are not content to support one another, but bitterly lash out at each other from our self drawn battle lines – because of this, we may always be caged – because if we could all work together for one common cause, even if that cause were as simple as defending our choice whatever it might be, then I cannot even dream of what we might accomplish and at the very least how happy we would all be for the company we starve ourselves from while we busy ourselves with judging each other’s decisions, even when they were made for them.

Why can we not be happy for each other when we’ve made our choices or strike hope in the hearts of those who have not or cannot? Support your fellow sisters, even when they don’t see eye to your eye – support them! You never know when you will need their support, too. Why resort to such pettiness when we can stand together, a united front against the world. Let the men fight battles, it is what they do best (with much less catty venom, you must admit). Let them fight the battles that may or may not need to be fought, while we do the one thing women are born to do – nurture and protect and work our mysterious magic as we bring safety and comfort where none see it. We are a force to be reckoned with, women, but only if we accept out weaknesses and revel in our strengths and stop fighting one another for no good reason.

Be the change you want to see in the world. I’d like to share my favorite passage from the novel I just finished – it might be considered a spoiler, so don’t read this if you haven’t yet read the book and intend to. But it really does bring home in my mind the point of it all:

“There in the city’s steam-and-smoke-smudged harbor is the most extraordinary sight of all: a great copper-clad lady with a torch in one hand and a book in the other. It is not a statesman or a god or a war hero who welcomes us to this new world. It is but an ordinary woman lighting the way – a lady offering us the liberty to pursue our dreams if we’ve the courage to begin.”

We are all of us that woman – empowered with knowledge and lightness we possess the choices and chances offered to us by the women before us – we possess that liberty regardless of what we might do with it – whether we harness that power to become a beacon to the world or piss it away in nothingness, it is ours. We might consider lighting the way for the girls coming into this world, wondering what being a woman means – what choices does she have and what should she do with them? I’ll repeat, as it bears the need to be repeated – be the change you want to see in the world.

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